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pig." Benjamin and two other acquaintances were invited to the feast on this occasion; but the dinner happening to be served rather early, Keimer was unable to resist the savory temptation, and before the guests arrived, eat up the pig.

In relating these incidents Franklin states that, in the subsequent course of his life, he “kept Lent,” at various times, in the strictest manner, abruptly quitting his ordinary diet, and as abruptly returning to it; and have ing done so without any injury whatever, he concluded that the usual advice to make such changes gradually, was of little value.

Another affair, however, was going on, at this period, of far more serious import to the parties, than anything connected with the fantastic Keimer. This was Benjamin's courtship of Miss Read, for whom he had begun to cherish “a great respect and affection, and had some reasons to believe that she had the same” for him. But they were yet very young, each having seen little more than eighteen years, and he being about to undertake a distant voyage, uncertain as to its results.

Under such circumstances, the prudent mother of Miss Read interposed so far as to caution the young people against involving themselves in any needless engagements, which would, at that time, be deemed injudicious, and which might subsequently become the occasion of embarrassment and regret; adding that, however much disposed they might be to marry, and however unobjectionable such a union might be ultimately considered, it would be best, at least, to defer it, until after Benjamin's return from England, when his condition would be more settled, and he would better understand his own prospects. The mother's advice was substantially followed.

HIS ASSOCIATES.

71

CHAPTER VIII.

BENJAMIN'S WAY OF LIFE-SAILS FOR ENGLAND.

By this time, also, Benjamin had formed several valuable as well as agreeable acquaintances among persons of his own sex and time of life. Of the young men, who had become his principal and most intimate associates, he has given the names of Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph -“ all lovers of reading"- and obviously, from his account of them, all of them possessing more than ordinary abilities and attainments. Osborne and Watson, it appears, were clerks in the office of Charles Brockden, a very reputable conveyancer; and Ralph was a clerk in a respectable mercantile house.

Of Watson he relates that he "was a pious, sensible young man, of great integrity; and although the other two were more lax in their principles of religion,” yet, in other respects, they seem clearly to have been attractive companions. Osborne is described as sensible, candid, frank; sincere and affectionate to his friends ; but, in literary matters, too fond of criticism ;" Ralph as being easy and graceful in his manners, ingenious, eloquent, and a particularly agreeable talker; and both, not only great lovers of poetry, but occasionally trying their own skill in verse.

In the occasional conversation of these young men,

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respecting their tastes, and views in life, Ralph, it ap. pears, showed a strong predilection for poetry, and declared his confident belief that, by cultivating it assiduously, he could win both fame and fortune. Osborne thought differently, and urged his friend to apply himself strictly to business; insisting that he had no true genius for poetry, but that by making himself an accomplished merchant and accountant, he might, though without capital, obtain the agency of some wealthy house, and in time become a partner, or acquire the means of trading on his own account. Franklin adhered to the opinion, which, as has been seen, he had formed years before, that it was useful to cultivate poetry, or practise versification, for the sake of acquiring a readier command of language and a more varied power expression; but no further.

The declaration of these opinions led to a proposal that they should, at their next meeting, each present a performance in verse, composed by himself, to be submitted to their respective critical remarks, for the sake of mutual improvement. The object being improvement in language and style simply, it was agreed that invention, or originality of conception, was not to be considered; and, in order to confine themselves strictly to the end in view, they appointed for their task, the eighteenth psalm, describing the descent of Deity, to be rendered in verse.

A day or two before the next meeting, Ralph called on Franklin, showed him his performance, which was exceedingly well done, and finding that Franklin had been too busy to prepare anything himself for the meeting, Ralph proposed a trap for Osborne, to expose his hypercritical spirit, and bring home, to his own consciousness, a clear perception of his undue propensity to cavil.

“Osborne will never allow the least merit in

A TRAP FOR OSBORNE.

73

&c.;

anything of mine,” said Ralph, “but makes a thousand criticisms out of mere envy. He is not so jealous of you. I wish, therefore, you would produce this piece as yours. I will pretend not to have had time, and will produce nothing. We shall then hear what he will say to it.” This was agreed to; and Franklin transcribed the piece, so that it should appear in his own hand-writing. The result is given in Franklin's own words, as follows:

“We met; Watson's performance was read; there were some beauties in it, but many defects. Osborne's was much better; Ralph did it justice; remarked some faults, but applauded the beauties. He had himself nothing to produce. I was backward, seemed desirous of being excused, had not had sufficient time to correct,

but no excuse could be admitted; produce I must. It was read and repeated; Watson and Osborne gave up

the contest, and joined in applauding it. Ralph only made a few criticisms, and proposed some amendments; but I defended the text. Osborn was severe against Ralph, and told him he was no better able to criticise than compose verses. As these two were returning home, Osborne expressed himself still more strongly in favor of what he thought my production, having before refrained, as he said, lest I should think he meant to flatter me. • But who could have imagined,' said he, that Franklin was capable of such a performance; such painting, such force, such fire! In common conversation he seems to have no choice of words; he hesitates and blunders ; yet how he writes !' When we next met, Ralph disclosed the trick, and Osborne was laughed at." A sufficiently efficacious remedy, one would think, this must have been, against the further exhibition of Osborne's hypercritical spleen, at least in presence of the same circle of companions.

6

In the absence of any recorded notice of the particular studies of young Franklin, at this period of his life, these anecdotes may furnish some indication that his course of reading must probably have been as varied and extensive, as the intervals of his regular employment, and the access to books, at that day, in the city where he dwelt, would permit; and they seem to claim insertion, not only for that reason, nor merely as amusing incidents, but still more as illustrations of character and of some of the influences under which his own was then unfolding.

Of the young men just introduced to the reader, as the names of Watson and Osborne do not occur, in connection with the subject of our narrative, at any subsequent stage of its progress, it may be interesting to state, that Watson, to use the words of Franklin, “died in his arms a few years later, much lamented, being the best of the set ;' and that Osborne established himself as a lawyer, in the West Indies, where he acquired both distinction and wealth, and yet died in the prime of manhood.

The connection of Ralph, with young Franklin, continued much longer, and was attended by more serious consequences, which, however, do not yet call for notice. It will be sufficient to state, here, that his inclination to give himself to poetry, was naturally and not a little strengthened by the incident already related; and, in spite of dissuasion, "he continued scribbling verses,” says Franklin, “till Pope cured him." He went, as will be seen, with Franklin, in the Annis, to London, where he afterward passed most of his life. He acquired considerable prominence as a prose writer, and lived by his pen, which he employed frequently in the service of the ministerial party. Besides numerous political pamphlets, and some more elaborate historical

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